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RBH Group unveils plans for $30 million 'indoor vertical farm' in Newark

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A rendering of the 'indoor vertical farm' in Newark.
A rendering of the 'indoor vertical farm' in Newark. - ()

A former industrial site in Newark will become home to the world's largest “indoor vertical farm” and the operator's new global headquarters under a plan detailed Monday by RBH Group, the developer behind the city's Teachers Village and Four Corners projects.

The $30 million project is already underway in the city’s Ironbound section, the firm said, in what will create a 69,000-square-foot facility and nearly 80 new jobs. The space will be operated by the startup AeroFarms, a high-tech commercial grower for vertical farming and controlled agriculture, occupying the site of a former steel factory at 212 Rome St.

The first phases are slated to open in the second half of this year, RBH Group said in a news release. When complete, AeroFarms will have the capacity to grow up to 2 million pounds per year of baby leafy greens and herbs in an environmentally controlled, safe and sanitary facility.

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The firm said AeroFarms is a model for successful, sustainable farming offering 75 times more productivity per square foot annually than a traditional field farm while using no pesticides and consuming more than 95 percent less water.

"We are delighted to introduce AeroFarms, a farming and technology leader, to the city of Newark, creating jobs for local residents and greater access to locally grown produce for our community,” Ron Beit, founding partner and CEO of RBH Group, said in a prepared statement. “AeroFarms will anchor our broader ‘Makers Village’ development project in the Ironbound neighborhood that will compete toe-to-toe with the Brooklyn Navy Yard in terms of a superior cost structure and greater transmodal access, bringing 21st-century “maker-type” businesses to Newark and the state of New Jersey."

Beit, who was ranked No. 17 on this year’s NJBIZ Power 50 Real Estate, is developing the project with investment partners Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and Prudential Financial Inc. They are part of the team behind the Teachers Village project in the city, a sprawling mixed-use development that is transforming a five-block stretch of Halsey Street.

In December, the state Economic Development Authority awarded the project a $2.2 million grant under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program and a $6.5 million tax credit through the Grow New Jersey program. Both incentives would be issued over 10 years.

“Newark is increasingly becoming a destination city for high-tech and environmentally-friendly commerce, and this $30 million project in the East Ward will bring jobs and prosperity to our city,” Mayor Ras J. Baraka said. “It will also expand the role of urban farming and locally-produced vegetables in our city. This will provide greater access to healthy and inexpensive food choices for our residents, helping them live healthier lifestyles.”

The AeroFarms building is located on a 3-acre industrial site in the Ironbound, adjacent to elevated truck Route 1 and 9, a freight rail right of way and to other industrial businesses along Rome and Christie Streets. AeroFarms has partnered with the Ironbound Community Corp. to create a recruiting and job training program targeting local residents.

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